Scenic coastlines dotted with fishing villages, the luxury and charm of San Sebastián, the stunning modernity of Bilbao, tiny mountain villages, and the best wines in the Rioja Alavesa.
The Basque Country
San Sebastián, Bilbao, Getaria, and the Basque Rioja bring to mind people reverent of traditions, connoisseurs of great food and wine–many say without par in Spain–and beautiful landscapes. Like the Basque Country, Basque cuisine has two faces: traditional ingredients and recipes alongside innovative, modern fare, notably found in the many Michelin-starred restaurants in San Sebastián and Bilbao. Not unlike the cuisine, the Basque Country embodies an exciting juxtaposition of the traditional and the modern. And amazingly the region marries the two sides seamlessly.
Traveling in the Basque Country can revolve around cities, hotels and experiences of the highest luxury, private one-on-one experiences with local artists, chefs, food producers, historians, architects and winemakers, the finest dining and the most luxurious hotels. Or traveling there can immerse you in rural life, traditional food, boutique wineries and unspoiled nature. Regardless of your travel style, you will be immersed in Basqueness while in the company of people passionate about what they do and where they live.
Our great friends–guides, winemakers, artisan producers, writers, chefs, architects and painters–will show you the Basque Country from their perspectives. Through guided experiences and immersion in the ways of life here, you will come to know the Basque Country– the land, the culture, the people– as travelers rarely do.
The Basque Country concentrates sensations. Green hills speckled with caseríos (traditional farmhouses), a stunningly beautiful coastline, arguably the best food in Spain, an ancient language (Euskera) and deep cultural roots define the region. The Basque Country embodies excellence and dedication, skillfully balancing tradition and quality. Perhaps best embodied in Chef Victor Arguinzoniz of Asador Etxebarri (#10 on World's Best Restaurant list), who skillfully prepares all manner of dishes on a series of grills hand-forged by him in the village he was born in. Traditional in the Basque Country, here the ancient technique of grilling is elevated to world-class art.
- Shop at the 13th-century Tolosa market
- Charcuterie and cheese tasting
- Indulge in a meal of a lifetime at one of the 3 Michelin-starred restaurants
- Cook your lunch with Basque chefs in a members-only cooking club
- Visit a Basque cheese maker and try his sheep's milk cheeses
- Hike the Basque coast. You'll love the stunning greens and the tucked-in fishing villages. Ride back by private boat.
- Explore Bilbao from the 13th-century Parte Vieja to the 19th-century Ensanche to the ultra-modern Guggenheim Museum
- Private lunch with a Bilbao painter in his home.
- Walk the hills to a village for a traditional lunch.
- Private wine tastings with the winery owners
- Visit a Basque cider house active for over 300 years
- Visit the Balenciaga Museum in charming Getaria
- Watch artisan anchovy salter-curers at work
Basque Country Trips
La Rioja–an obligatory pilgrimage for any wine enthusiast–may be Spain’s quintessential wine region known for classic Tempranillo-based wines. The wine region evokes images of pristine medieval villages, stellar local products enlivening the cuisine, and traditional old-world Rioja wines. Beneath this classic exterior the Rioja has a bevy of innovative winemakers producing world-class wines enhancing the wine region's caché. Your private winery visits and wine tastings, often with the bodega owners or the winemakers, will allow you to experience the heart and soul of the region. Your lunches and dinners will be at chef-owned restaurants focused on contemporary cuisine or on age-old traditional fare. Prepare yourself for charming hotels, dramatic scenery, hilltop castles, delicious food, and of course stellar red and, surprisingly, white wines.
Lingering over leisurely meals accompanied by the best wines of the region you will find yourself thinking that you have found the perfect food and wine escape.
- Visit modern architect-designed and traditional family-owned wineries.
- Visit underground wine cellars in Laguardia. Underneath this lovely Rioja village the medieval cellars are ideal places for wine-tasting.
- Relax in luxury or boutique village hotels
- Dress for dinner– Dine at one of the region's Michelin-starred restaurants.
- Taste bite-sized Basque tapas on a pintxos tour
- Visit Unesco World Heritage Yuso and Suso monasteries and hear stories about the beginnings of the Spanish language.
- Harvest the grapes followed by a country lunch in the vineyard.
Barcelona & Catalonia
Barcelona, the capital of the Catalonia region, has long been a cosmopolitan and forward-thinking city. Sophisticated yet relaxed this Mediterranean city has a love of art, design and architecture as well as great food. Barcelona is the ideal place for food and wine tours given that the cuisine stands among the top regional fares in Spain.
The Mediterranean bounty and centuries of culinary development make Barcelona a food paradise amidst medieval streetscapes. Not known to rest on tradition, Barcelona and the region of Catalonia tend towards cultural innovation and this means the food is often cutting-edge.
The wine regions outside of Barcelona include the Penedès making world-class cavas, the Priorat and Montsant regions producing powerful Grenache-based red wines, the Terra Alta whose stars are elegant whites, and the Emporda region which includes the Costa Brava. You may want to dine at the acclaimed Celler de Can Roca restaurant (3 Michelin stars and the #2 restaurant in the world in 2016) in Girona (Costa Brava) or visit the Dali Museum and the Dali house. Your luxury hotel will be in a medieval village or on the stunning coast.
- Visit Barcelona's upscale food markets and sample local pastries, olive oil, Iberian ham, and Catalan wine.
- Take a private Gothic Quarter walking tour. Spend a morning with an expert private guide tasting your way through specialty food shops.
- See impressive Romanesque art. Visit the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC).
- Dine on seafood in the Barceloneta fisherman's district
- Tour Priorat wineries. Spectacular terraced vineyards yield robust garnacha-based red wines.
- Spend a day in Girona, known as little Barcelona, famous for its historic Jewish quarter and 3 Michelin-starred Celler de Can Roca restaurant.
- Eat lunch in the vineyard with an Empordá winemaker. Enjoy lamb and botifarra grilled over vine clippings in a vineyard near the Pyrenees.
- Visit a Cava maker. Taste Joan's stellar Cavas made in a former paper mill.
- Taste olive oil made from 1000 year old olive trees. Visit the trees, taste the oil, and eat traditional Ebro River Delta rice and seafood.
- Sample Catalan goat cheese. Taste cheese and wine in the company of the cheese maker in his 14th century farmhouse.
- Hike the stunning Costa Brava cliffs and have lunch in a fishing village.
- Gaudi's Sagrada Familia and the Block of Discord
- Dali Museum and Dali's house visit
- In-depth Priorat and Montsant winery visits
Barcelona & Catalonia Trips
The Priorat region lies two hours south of Barcelona and is home to enterprising winemakers drawn by the old vines and the distinctive native grapes and slate dominated soils. The wines here continually win international praise and awards. The landscapes are stunning. Spending a day or two in the Priorat can feel like stepping into another era or visiting a different country. And it's only two hours from Barcelona!
During your winery visits you will taste the wines with the winery owner or winemaker. What could be better? To pair with the (principally) Garnacha and Cariñena wines choose from traditional mountain cuisine or lighter modern fare. Tasting local olive oil made from Arbequina olives and artisan sheep or goat cheese will round out your taste experiences. We recommend staying at least two days here.
- Visit the DOCa Priorat wineries with passionate winemaker-owners and taste the bold wines created in terraced mountain vineyards.
- Visit Roman Tarragona and explore the Roman amphitheater and circus complex. Lunch: Rockfish, mussels and clams, romesco sauce paired with Montsant or Terra Alta wines.
- Walk through vineyards to the New York of the Priorat–the mountain village famous for its strikingly tall medieval buildings.
- Spend the morning on the water with the fishermen. Watch as they harvest oysters and mussels in the Ebro River Delta before you eat lunch of oysters and mussels paired with Cava and traditional seafood rice.
Andalucía exudes palpable Spanishness: Passionate flamenco singers, graceful Andaluz horses, majestic sherry bodegas, humble tapas bars and enduring vestiges of a Moorish past. The past is persistent in Andalucía and the centuries of Christian, Jewish and Islamic coexistence are seen and felt in Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada, Málaga, Jerez and many white villages and mountain pueblos.
The food and wine of Andalucía have not always been tourism draws for the region. The attractions for most travelers have been the monument-laden cities whose exoticism has attracted scores to visit Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada and Ronda, and led 19th century Romantic writer Washington Irving to pen Tales of the Alhambra and Ernest Hemingway to spend time most notably in Ronda. Now, after beach and sun tourism and foreign second home colonies threatened to destroy authentic Andalusian culture, the cuisine included, a movement is afoot to re-evaluate and re-invigorate the many culinary traditions and the near moribund Andalusian wines from Jerez to Málaga to Granada. A locally led revival which owes little to outsiders coming in and declaring Andalusian food and wine worthy of international attention. It has been a home-grown effort to first value what has always been there and to then champion those chefs, food producers and winemakers who focus on quality. The story is still being written but suffice it to say that Andalucía is rising and there is no better time to take a trip before the "secret" is out.
- Sample classic tapas. Sevilla's historic Santa Cruz and Triana districts are home to Spanish tapas at their best. Arrange a tapas tour in Málaga, Cádiz or Granada.
- Visit artisan cheese and olive oil makers in the mountains near Ronda
- Visit pueblos blancos: Ronda, Aracena, Arcos & Vejer
- Visit private sherry bodegas in Jerez de la Frontera to sample VOS and VORS sherries.
- Taste the ham. See acorn grazing Iberian pigs near Jabugo and sample jamón ibérico, aka Iberian caviar.
- Discover flamenco. See an authentic flamenco performance in Sevilla or Jerez.
- Cook with a Michelin-starred chef. Prepare part of your own tasting menu in the kitchen of a Michelin starred restaurant.
- Take the high-speed train to Córdoba. Tour the Unesco World Heritage Mezquita followed by a traditional tapas lunch.
- Taste local shrimp and tuna. Sanlúcar de Barrameda is famous for its gambas (and Manzanilla sherry), and Barbate for its net-caught bluefin tuna and mojama, or wind-dried tuna.
Experience classic Spain in this world class city. A great walking and eating city, Madrid offers visitors traditional and avant-garde tapas bars, cafés and cuisine, stunning art museums and art galleries, vibrant nightlife and the chance to visit classic towns such as Toledo, Aranjuez and Segovia. Traveling to Madrid puts you 90 minutes from the world class wineries of the Ribera del Duero region, as well as a selection of producers directly outside the city.
- Cook traditional Spanish food. After shopping for ingredients in the market, cook lunch with an acclaimed Madrid chef.
- Discover the Reina Sofia, Thyssen and Prado Museums with a private art guide. Spend the morning with an art specialist in your choice of museums.
- Visit specialty food shops in the historic Tribunal and Chueca districts. Shop for Spanish ingredients, tasting as you go, or stop in at unique shops selling ceramics, clothing, kitchenware and flamenco guitars.
- Explore Hapsburg Madrid. Be guided on a private walking tour. Highlights include the Royal Palace and the Plaza Mayor.
- Travel to Toledo for a day. A museum of a city, Toledo was the center of three co-existing medieval cultures.
- Visit El Escorial, Segovia or La Granja. Explore historic palaces and feast on Castillian cochinillo.
- Take a guided tapas tour. A moveable feast among traditional and modern bars, led by a local chef and culinary historian.
Ribera del Duero
Well known and loved by wine enthusiasts, the wines from Spain's Ribera del Duero region in Castilla-León include such legendary names as Vega Sicilia, Pingus, and Mauro. Beyond the prestigious bodegas, Ribera del Duero boasts numerous enchanting wineries to visit.
Beyond wine, the area is home to amazingly well preserved castles–the best I have seen in Spain–; sublime charcuterie from nearby Guijelo; rich lechazo (roast baby lamb) and cochinillo (roast suckling pig); some of the best sheep's milk cheese in Spain; luxurious five-star hotels; a new Michelin-star restaurant.
Succulent lamb and robust sheep's milk cheeses pair perfectly with the wines in Ribera del Duero. Vega Sicilia and Pingus rank among the world's best wines, but there are many other great wines here. Together with neighboring Toro and Cigales wine regions, the Ribera del Duero is worthy of a few days trying the wines and indulging in food from classic tapas to Michelin-starred innovations.
We can design a custom trip for you in the Ribera del Duero wine region. Starting in Madrid and visiting Segovia en route to the region works well. A visit to Ribera del Duero can also include Burgos and the Rioja region, ending in San Sebastian or Bilbao. Contact us to begin planning your journey to Spanish wine country.
Portugal may be Europe's last best undiscovered place. As regional as it is small, Portugal deserves at least a week if not three. We recommend that you build your trip around Lisbon or Porto, and explore from one of those cities. Near Lisbon the Alentejo region feels old world with it's traditional villages, historic wineries and home cooking in portions suited to the days when the meals fed workers in from the fields. Up north Porto grew around the wine trade, being the place where Port wines were aged. Up river from Porto is the Douro River Valley where steep hillsides planted in vines and centuries-old quintas produce both Port and non-fortified wines.
Places in Spain and Portugal
Ways to Travel
We design trips for groups, applying the same precise planning and excellent execution as we do with our private custom trips. We arrange trips that work for company incentive groups, alumni, museum or private clubs, celebration vacations, professional wine or culinary groups and family trips.
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PRIVATE WINE TOURS
Our specialty is exclusive private wine tours, winery visits and wine tastings. We have access to wineries normally not open to the public. Our portfolio includes the top wineries, small family-owned wineries, celebrity wineries, and upstart garage wineries. These tours are beyond ordinary.